What makes a good childhood?

shutterstock_2040590By Dr. Nicole Milburn, Clinical Psychologist and Internal Consultant for Infant Mental Health at Berry Street Take Two

The Berry Street Childhood Institute has a primary task of helping the community think about what makes a good childhood. In health and welfare work, we are so often required to focus on what is not good enough and what requires improvement. To have an institute in our field that is dedicated to sharing a conversation about what makes a good childhood is a really wonderful addition.

I am a Clinical Psychologist and Infant Mental Health Specialist. The field of infant mental health has been burgeoning over the last 50 years and has much to say about what constitutes a good childhood. Infant mental health has particular strengths in this area, having come from the fields of both psychoanalytic theory and developmental psychology.

Psychoanalysis has a long history of thinking about what lies inside people’s heads; what conscious and unconscious drives and motivations are acted out in behavior, and how people see themselves in relation to one another.  Continue reading “What makes a good childhood?”

A good childhood for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children

Julian Pocock, Director Public Policy & Practice Development
Julian Pocock, Director Public Policy & Practice Development

In 2007, Ampe Akelyernemane Meke Mekarle – or the Little Children Are Sacred Report – exposed the complexity and shame of sexual abuse of Aboriginal children in the Northern Territory.

Constant media focus on child abuse in the NT followed. Daily reports in The Australian newspaper and nightly stories on ABC’s Lateline.

They covered, paedophile rings, chronic neglect, kids sniffing petrol, kids roaming the streets day and night and the sexual abuse of kids, including kids abusing other kids. All fueled by a daily diet of pornography and alcohol.

Shocking, awful stuff. Hard to digest, hard to think about and harder to know where to start. But, in time, easy to ignore.

With the 2007 Federal Election looming, the NT intervention was announced in response to this ‘national emergency’.

Just after another election, it’s a good time to ask – has childhood improved for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children?

I’m not sure.

Media stories of neglect and abuse continue. Negative images of Aboriginal kids and families dominate.

Take a look at this photo of a two year old Aboriginal girl from NT in a News.com.au article.

What’s your first thought when you look at it?

At first glance it’s hard not to think she’s been punched.

I had to ask myself, why was that my first thought?

Are we getting any better at providing kids like this with a good childhood?

Youth participation doesn’t come with instructions

Youth participation needs to be creative, flexible & responsive.
Youth participation needs to be creative, flexible & responsive.

Let’s be honest.

In the youth sector, the education sector and the welfare sector, we are often immersed in adult conversation. Even when we consult, hold focus groups and work alongside young people, the majority of the time we are adults talking to other adults.

At Berry Street, like other organisations across the country, we are committed to raising the bar in youth participation. We believe that young people have a key role in improving the lives of Australian children in the 21st Century.

But how do we support young people to take on this role?

And how can we ensure that young people are getting their fair say about what sustains a good childhood?

In the lead up to The Good Childhood Conference, the staff at the Berry Street Childhood Institute have been working to ensure that young people get their say.

We know that we don’t have all the answers.

We know that holding a national conference that brings adults and young people together will provide many lessons in youth participation. And we know we won’t stop there.

We have been buoyed by the interest of other organisations, and the overwhelming support from individuals (young and old) wanting the opportunity to come together.

Like the many organisations that we have taken inspiration from, we look forward to sharing our experiences with you.

From the youth engagement desk,
Katrina Stone